IT WILL HAPPEN something like this:
“Do you have any reservations for this Tuesday night?” a would-be diner will say.
“Tuesday?” the hostess will ask. “You mean Christmas Eve?”
“Oh, is that Christmas Eve?”
Every year it happens and every year the answer is the same: “No, we don’t.”
“But I was supposed to make reservations, and I forgot.”
Mr. Would-be Diner will then mope and whine, threaten and cajole, as if these behaviors are really going inspire people to help him out.
Look around on your holiday night out; I guarantee you will see someone bullying and blustering by the front door.
“I demand to see the manager,” Mr. Would-be Diner will finally say.
There is a saying, “Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” But just try telling that to someone in that predicament. Usually, people in the restaurant business will bend over backward to make things go right for you. But sometimes there is nothing we can do. Living in the moment is one thing, but living in the last minute is quite another.
“Excuse me,” someone else will say. “Is it OK if I eat at the bar? My plans fell through, and I don’t have reservations.”
“Sure,” the bartender will say. “Sit right down, and I will take great care of you.”
Meanwhile bluster and whine will continue on at the door, refusing anything but gold star treatment.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” Scrooge says in Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
In other words, if you are unhappy where you are at, try changing what you are doing.
So in the interest of needs and last-minute doings, I humbly offer these few suggestions for those still looking for a gift just three days before Christmas. Call it the bartender in me.
Benders Rye whiskey: Rye whiskey is all the rage, and the Bay Area is easily the mecca of the new cocktail era, so it is somewhat ironic that Benders is only the second Bay Area incarnation of rye to enter the fray (Old Potrero made by Anchor Distilling is the other). Bottled and blended on Treasure Island, Benders softens its 96 proof by long aging. Seven years in charred new American oak (more than three times the legal minimum for straight rye whiskey) and the resultant whiskey is smooth and spicy with just the right amount of kick. At $46 for 750 milliliters, it’s right on par with most whiskies of the same age. But it’s the taste that sets it apart. Go to www.bendersrye.com.
“Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne”: The award-winning cookbook by travel author and Marin local Kimberley Lovato is more than a travel memoir or a cookbook. Lovato’s book combines the best of both, punctuating its prose with lush photography of the region and the food. No wonder it has won awards in France and the U.S. It might just be the next best thing to being there, and at $26, a lot less expensive, too.
Nostalgie Black Walnut Liqueur: Napa’s Charbay Distilling offers this liqueur for those less inclined to follow recipes and for those more inclined to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors. Nostalgie combines three types of walnuts (reportedly hand gathered by distiller Marko Karakasevic) blends them with spices and Charbay’s award-winning brandy for a treat unlike any other. Try a splash in a Manhattan or pour over ice cream and send Jack Frost running for the hills. At $75 for 350 milliliters, it’s expensive but well worth it, and still cheaper than that trip to France. More information at www.charbay.com.
Himalayan salt tequila glasses: Tired of assembling the lime, salt and glasses for your tequila? Well now you can combine your efforts. These glasses are made from solid pink salt from the Himalayan Mountains and look somewhat like veined pink marble. The salt adds a bit of flavor to your tequila and certainly puts the “present” in presentation. But don’t let the tequila sit for too long, the salt will eventually dissolve. Then again these are shot glasses, not sipping glasses. Available locally at the Tyler Florence Shop in downtown Mill Valley; $40 for four “glasses.” Real salt is not dishwasher safe, just FYI.
Have a happy and safe holiday!